About France

Culture Corner

For all you culture vultures out there, you’ll find a variety of topics including:  Did you know…?, Quotations, Recipes, Humour, Language schools

Did you know…?

French (le français, la langue française) is one of the most important Romance languages, outnumbered only by Spanish and Portuguese. French is the 11th most spoken language in the world, spoken by about 77 million people (called ‘Francophones’) as a mother tongue, and 128 million including second language speakers, in 1999. It is an official or administrative language in various communities and organizations (such as the European Union, IOC, United Nations and Universal Postal Union).

The French government cannot ask a person to state their religion when they immigrate to France as this violates secular law (separation church/state). Subsequently, their censuses are not reliable. They do not know, for example, how many Muslims live in France…the figure could be anywhere between 5 and 9 million!

In France medical consumption is higher than any other developed nation. The French consume 3 to 4 times as many tranquillisers as other Europeans. 13% of the French population study beyond secondary school level.

According to extracts taken from an article, ‘French reconnection’, Christianity Today, February 2005, Evangelical churches are also learning to introduce themselves in savvy ways, for example by identifying themselves as Protestant. Pastor Chris Short says that it is because Protestants aren’t a cult. “They get good press because they’re not Catholic and their pastors can marry.” If in some places, evangelicals are perceived as a cult, then it’s “mostly because of clumsy public relations.” In 2003-which Christians promoted as the Year of the Bible-the French Bible Society’s publishing house sold an unprecedented 100,000 Bibles and 50,000 New Testaments. Bonnet says that in the last 15 years secular bookstores, which never wanted to sell Bibles before, and major supermarket chains, began selling Bibles.

The search for God in the most secular country of Europe is so universally felt that even a business journal-the equivalent of Forbes or Fortune-was compelled to publish a special issue in July and August of 2003 where the cover exclaimed, “God, the Stocks Are Rising!” In France, this rise in spirituality is pushing out secularism in both schools and business. In France an evangelical congregation has been born here every 11 days in the last 35 years, according to the conservative estimates of Daniel Liechti, a respected tracker of evangelical growth in France who heads development at France Mission. This statistic is based on the net total, one that takes into account the churches that die out. Since 1950, the number of evangelicals has increased from 50,000 to at least 350,000. It turns out that all those missionaries who returned home from France in dismay did actually accomplish something beyond learning how to pick out a wine that goes with duck à l’orange!

Of France’s 60 million inhabitants, about 40 million consider themselves Catholic, but only about 5 million attend church each month. Up to 5 million are Muslim and 650,000 are Jewish. One million are Protestants; about 650,000 of them belong to the often austere and liturgical Reformed and Lutheran churches, but only a small proportion attend church regularly. Up to one-third of these mainline church attenders are likely evangelical-minded. Finally there are the 350,000 evangelical churchgoers. Most French are then deists, agnostics, or atheists. Or seekers.

Things are changing at the state level too. In January 2004, the former interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy praised evangelicals at a meeting of the French Evangelical Federation for their contributions to society. Last spring, at a time when a large number of Jewish cemeteries and synagogues were vandalized, Jacques Chirac publicly praised the Bible-believing community of Le Chambon for putting their lives at risk to save 5,000 Jews 60 years ago.


An approximate English translation is given in italics!


C’est le coeur qui sent Dieu, et non la raison. Voilà ce que c’est que la foi: Dieu sensible au coeur, non à la raison.
It’s the heart that senses God, not the reason. Here’s what faith is: God responsive to the heart, not to reason.

Deux excès: exclure la raison, n’admettre que la raison.
Two excesses: excluding reason, accepting only reason.

Il n’y a que deux sortes d’hommes: les uns justes, qui se croient pécheurs; les autres pécheurs, qui se croient justes.
There are two types of men: righteous men who consider themselves to be sinners ; and the other sinners who think themselves righteous.

Jésus sera en agonie jusqu’à la fin du monde: il ne faut pas dormir pendant ce temps-là.
Jesus will agonize until the end of the world so it’s not a time for sleeping.

La grandeur de l’homme est grande en ce qu’il se connaît misérable. Un arbre ne se connaît pas misérable.
Man’s greatness lies in his realisation of his own misery. A tree doesn’t realise it is miserable.

Le coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît point; on le sait en mille choses.
The heart has reasons that reason knows not; we know it to be true in many matters.

Qu’est-ce que l’homme dans la nature? Un néant à l’égard de l’infini, un tout à l’égard du néant, un milieu entre rien et tout.
How does man measure up to nature? He is nothing when measured against infinity, everything when measured against nothing, sitting uncomfortably between nothing and everything.

Soumission et usage de la raison, en quoi consiste le vrai christianisme.
Submission and using reason constitute true Christianity.


Ce n’est pas dans je ne sais quelle retraite que nous nous découvrirons: c’est sur la route, dans la ville, au milieu de la foule, chose parmi les choses, homme parmi les hommes.
It’s not during some retreat or other that we find ourselves, it’s on the road, in town, among the crowd, among other things, among other men.

Il n’y a que Dieu. L’homme, c’est une illusion d’optique.
God alone exists. Man is just an optical illusion.

La vie, c’est une panique dans un théâtre en feu.
Life is like mayhem in a burning theatre.

Pas besoin de gril, l’enfer, c’est les Autres.
No need for a grill, hell is other people.

Tous les moyens sont bons quand ils sont efficaces
All means are good if they are effective.


A moins qu’une belle femme ne soit un ange, son mari est le plus malheureux des hommes.
Unless a beautiful women is an angel, her husband is the unhappiest of men.


Si on nous apporte sous le titre de l’esprit quelque chose qui ne soit contenue en l’Evangile, ne le croyons pas.
If someone teaches us something ‘inspired by the spirit’ but which can’t find it in the Gospel, let us not believe it.


Il faut créer le bonheur pour protester contre l’univers du malheur.
We have to create happiness in protest against a world of pain.


Cela est fort beau, mais j’ai du mal à croire que je descends d’une morue.
That’s really nice, but I have a hard time believing that I descend from a monk fish.

J’ai décidé d’être heureux parce que c’est bon pour la santé.
I have decided to be happy because it’s good for the health.


Boeuf bourguignon
For 4 people
Preparation time: 10 mins
Cooking time: 1 hour
tender beef: 800 g
bacon: 50 g
onions: 3
red wine: 6 glasses
butter: 2 table spoons
arachnid oil: 1 table spoon
cloves: 3
bay leaves: 3 leaves
a pinch of 4-spices
chopped parsley: 3 branches
zest of 1 orange
thyme: 2 branches
salt & pepper
Heat the butter & oil in a large casserole dish. Cook the meat (cubed) using a wooden spoon until sealed & golden all over. Add bacon, onions picked with cloves, thyme, bay leaves, parsley. Bring the red wine to the boil separately and add immediately to the meat. Add salt, pepper and pinch of 4-spices. Add the orange zest and cover the pan. Leave to cook gently for one hour. Serve the meat decorated with the remaining parsley.

Blanquette de veau à l’ancienne
For 8 people
Preparation time: 30 mins
Cooking time: 1 hour 45 mins
shoulder of veal: 1.6 kg
carrot: 1
white of leeks: 3
onion: 1 large
garlic: 1 clove
shallot onions: 3
celery: 1 stick
bouquet garni (parsley, thyme, bay leaf): 1
parsley: 1 bunch
lemon: 1
mushrooms: 400 g
dry white wine: 4 table spoons
egg yolks: 3
‘crème fraîche’: 1,5 dl
flour: 2 table spoons
butter: 70 g

Method: Peal carrot, garlic, shallots and onion. Chop the onion, leek finely. Cut the shallots and carrot into two. Bring 2 litres of water to the boil in a large cooking pot and add the meat for about one minute to whiten it. Drain the meat and rinse it under cold water and throw away the water. Rinse the pan and put the meat back in it, adding the chopped onion, leek, carrot, shallots, garlic, celery and bouquet garni. Add salt, pepper and wine. Add water so that the meat and vegetable are completely covered. Cover the pan. Bring to the boil and cook gently for 1-hour 30 mins. Chop the mushrooms and sprinkle with the lemon juice. In a frying pan, melt 30g of butter and cook for the mushrooms for 10 minutes. Prepare a white sauce: melt the remaining butter in a pan, sprinkle on the flour and stir continually with a whisk. Leave to cool. When the meat is cooked, sieve it with the vegetables and put aside the gravy. Mix the gravy into the cold white sauce and gently bring to the boil, whisking all the time. Remove the bouquet garni, garlic, celery and carrot before adding the meat and the other vegetables to the pan. Add the mushrooms and the sauce and reheat together 10-15 mins. Just before serving, mix the cream with the egg yolks and stir them into the sauce, stirring continually, without bringing to the boil. Add a few drops of lemon juice and serve in a decorative dish with parsley as decoration. Variation: You can also use the same recipe with other meals (chicken, turkey), or (monkfish, cod). Accompany the meat with boiled potatoes, rice, celery hearts or cauliflower.

Coq au vin
For 4 people
Preparation time: 50 mins
Cooking time: 50 mins
fresh chicken: 1.5 kg
bacon: 100 g
mushrooms: 150 g
carrots: 2
garlic: 1 clove
small onions: 8
parsley: large bunch
bay leaf: 1
thyme: 1 branch
butter: 50 g
flour: 1 small spoon
red wine: 75 cl
cognac: 2 desert spoons
fine salt
white pepper
Method: Cut the chicken into 8 pieces and rub in half a teaspoon of salt and a pinch of pepper. Chop the bacon into 1cm pieces. Peel & chop finely the garlic and onions. Peel & slice the carrots. Chop the parsley. In a large cooking pot, heat the lard with the meat in butter until golden brown. Add the garlic, onions and carrots. Leave to cook gently for a few minutes. Season with thyme and bay leaf. Add the red wine. Leave to simmer for 40 minutes. Clean the mushrooms and chop finely. Remove the chicken pieces from the pan and keep them warm. Bring the gravy to the boil and stir fry the mushrooms. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 mins. Mix the flour with some cold water and add the gravy. Add salt. Add the cognac and mix well. Cover the chicken pieces with the gravy and sprinkle with parsley to serve. Hint: ‘Coq au vin’ is flattered by a ‘flowery’ red wine such as a Beaujolais, for example.


Asterix, the famous comic strip character, representing Gaul in Roman times: Visit www.asterix.com
Tintin, another famous comic strip character, and his little dog Milou: Visit www.tintin.com
Lucky Luke, cowboy extraordinaire: Visit www.lucky-luke.com (in French only)

Language schools

Do you want to learn French in France? If so, here are a list of the main French Language Schools in Paris:
ALLIANCE FRANÇAISE, 101, Bd Raspail, 75006 PARIS, Tél. (01)
INSTITUT CATHOLIQUE, 21, rue d’Assas, 75006 PARIS, Tél. (01)
BERLITZ, 31, rue du Sommerand, 75005 PARIS, Tél. (01)
ECOLE EIFFEL, 3, rue Crocé-Spinelli, 75014 PARIS, Tél. (01)
LES CEDRES, 17, voie de Wissous, 91300 MASSY, Tél. (01)
CETRADEL, 11 bis rue Christophe Colomb, 75008 PARIS, Tél. (01)
TRANSFER, 20, rue Godot de Mauroy, 75009 PARIS, Tél. (01)
ETOILE, 4 Place St. Gérmain-des-Prés, 75006 PARIS, Tél. (01)
EUROCENTRE, 13 Passage Dauphine, 75006 PARIS, Tél. (01)
INLINGUA, 172, rue de Courcelles, 75019 PARIS, Tél. (01)
LANGUES ET ENTREPRISES, 18, rue de Tilsitt, 75017 PARIS, Tél. (01)
LANGUAGE STUDIES, 350, rue St. Honoré, 75001 PARIS, Tél. (01)
PARIS AMERICAN ACADEMY, 9, rue des Ursulines, 75005 PARIS, Tél. (01)
PHONETIQUE, 19, rue des Bernardins, 75005 PARIS, Tél. (01)
FOYER INTERNATIONAL DE PARIS, 30, rue Cabanis, 75014 PARIS, Tél. (01)

Near Albertville:
Centre chrétien d’enseignement du français (French Christian Language Training Centre) : www.cef-france.org